Distinguishing Greek and Greek

JFC (Jefsey) Morfin jefsey at jefsey.com
Thu Mar 17 08:53:25 CET 2005

On 07:39 17/03/2005, Mark Crispin said:
>On Wed, 16 Mar 2005, Sean M. Burke wrote:
>>(Your point is particularly timely as I have just been dealing with 
>>someone who thinks that to localize a system to X languages, you have to 
>>localize all the system's messages including the language-name choices, 
>>so that there is an X**2 increase.  Because, of course, if you are 
>>localizing to Hopi and Malay, you MUST have the Malay word for Hopi, and 
>>the Hopi word for Malay.)
>Gack.  I've encountered that attitude too.
>But I see where it came from.  Very often, English-based systems that 
>offer a language switch option do so with all the language names in 
>English, so it is not surprising that the obvious conclusion is that this 
>mistake should be replicated.

there is a few difficulties there. I will list five, I am sure there are 
many others:

1. to display the language you need to support its script. Often the screen 
generator or the browser does not support them. The screen just provides a 
link to a page on another site where a generator having the proper script 
has been used. In Word, you have only a few character sets preloaded. So 
you have no other alternative than to use the current script or to use an icon.

2. courtesy to the buyer of the software (and often law) imposes that a 
product is documented in the customer's own language. This is one of the 
reason why IDN are both a must and a problem (they do not support local 
language TLDs).

3. this is an erroneous assumption to believe that because a person does 
not know a language she will not want to use its script. There are many 
reasons why. For example on a word processor I want to enter a foreign 
quote, even if I do not know the language I can find the characters. I may 
want to enter some fake Chinese text in an art design. I may want to see 
the look and feel of a foreign page to compare. I want to show and give its 
URL to person having the language.

4. ISO 7000 standardizes icons. It is costly so I do not purchased it and I 
do not know if it has language icons included. But on European Community 
sites we have this problem. Since you are around for a while you probably 
know Louis Pouzin and Jean-Louis Grangé (back in the 70s). We created an 
association together for European multilingualism on the Internet. JLG had 
to design a few years ago the site of the French Presidence of Europe (we 
change every 6 months). One of the main problem he met was the icons for 
languages/countries. French is spoken in Belgium, Luxembourg; German in 
Germany and Austria, English in UK and Ireland. National French, German, 
British flags could not be used for languages.

5. I do not know about your US usages, but anti-discrimination usages make 
us not to assume everybody knows how to read. Yet everyone is entitled to 
access sites, listen music, watch photos, look at maps, etc. So we need icons.

Real life may be more complex than 3 descriptors language tags. (BTw this 
is why we need 5 of them (which can default to 3 when we know 2, or even to 
1, when we know 4). But Word uses 5 and Microsoft has a good proven 
experience in the area).


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